How to get a better night’s rest with chronic pain

39411648_MChronic pain can make it difficult to sleep. However, poor sleep can exasperate chronic pain. It’s a vicious cycle, where neither one is helping you feel better. So, how do you take steps to improve your sleep and break this compounding cycle?

As we’ve seen, the two often go hand in hand, but the good news is, there are some steps that can you can take to beat it. When you have chronic pain, you may find it difficult to fall asleep, as well as stay asleep throughout the night. You may toss and turn, which leaves you feeling drowsy and in even more pain. There are steps you can take now to help you achieve more zzz’s, because even a small improvement can make a huge difference.

Get your room ready for sleep

Start by making sure your room is ripe for sleeping. Make sure the temperature is cool, ideally between 60-75. A cool room will most likely help you sleep better, but find the temperature that is comfortable for you. Next, check your bed, pillow, and any other support you need to ensure a quality rest. The wrong pillow can make it hard to sleep and cause you more pain. Here’s a guide to help you find the right pillow depending on how you sleep. Consider your mattress next. Is your mattress helping or exasperating your chronic pain? Mattresses can be costly, but finding the right one is essential since you’ll spend many hours in it. The right one can make a distinctive difference in how well you sleep. This guide from The Better Sleep Council can help you pick one that works well for your needs. Do you need any additional support, such as a knee pillow to help you sleep? Make sure you have everything you need to get comfy. Lastly, make sure you have darkening curtains; you don’t want the light keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Schedule a nightly routine

Once your room is ready, consider your nightly routine. Start with an honest look at your schedule. It’s best to get up and go to bed at the same time each night. If you can make this happen, your internal clock will work more efficiently. Think about what you can do to create a consistent wind down routine. Relaxing activities before bed can help you sleep; things like reading a book, stretching, meditating, taking a warm bath (even better, an Epsom salt bath), and/or listening to relaxing music. Choose activities that help you feel more at ease and ready to sleep. If you do this every night, your mind and body will get used to the routine and start naturally winding down when the time comes. Also, if your doctor approves it, consider taking your pain reliever near bedtime. This may also be beneficial.

What to do if chronic pain wakes you up

If you do wake up in the middle of the night, try to ease yourself back into sleep. This can be a struggle sometimes, especially when you have chronic pain. You can try to get yourself back to sleep with meditation, guided imagery, or other relaxation techniques. But, if after 20 to 30 minutes you can’t fall asleep, don’t force it. Get up and find something calming to do until you can go back to sleep, such as reading a book. Stay away from anything loud or bright. Keep lights on low, and don’t turn to the TV or mobile devices. This can wake you up more, making it harder to fall back asleep.

Additional things you can do

Another way to improve your sleep is to have an exercise regime. Try to exercise 4 to 8 hours prior to bedtime. Exercise can help ease anxiety and can improve your overall health, which can help ease some burdens when it comes time to sleep. If worries are on your mind, also take time to journal it out before going to bed. This way, when you lay down you won’t have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

If chronic pain is still getting in the way of a restful sleep, talk to your physician. Find out if there are additional therapies they’d recommend and check any pills you’re taking to see if the side effects could be affecting your sleep. If so, talk to your physician about this as well. They may be able to recommend sleep aids to help on a short term basis or you could potentially try supplements such as Valerian or Melatonin (natural sleep aids), but please talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements to make sure they won’t interfere with your current treatment or condition.

It can be so frustrating when you’re in a chronic pain and also have trouble getting the sleep you need. Hopefully some of these tips will help you get a better night’s rest starting tonight!


About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of  She lives with her autoimmune conditions and her family in Austin, Texas.

This post contains opinions of the author. is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy



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